Your must-have travel gadget for this trip
For this trip, you need a good DLSR Camera, perhaps with two lenses: a wide-angle and a telephoto
Table of Contents
San Gimignano, church of Sant'Agostino
Let's go to the discovery of San Gimignano, among historic buildings, churches, squares, and its hundred towers, including the "twin" ones and that of the "Devil"
Walking around this medieval town is like taking a dip in the past. A place rich in history, most of the buildings date back to the period between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, but also an example of the urban organization of the municipal age.
The name San Gimignano would be a derivation from that of the holy bishop of Modena, who would have defended the village from the occupation of Attila.
The first city walls (from 998) also included the hill of Montestaffoli, where there was already a stronghold, a market place owned by the bishop of Volterra, and the poggio della Torre with the bishop's castle.
Leaving the car at the Bagnaia car park, you reach Porta San Jacopo , one of the city gates (the others are those of San Martino, delle Fonti and San Giovanni) after which the path takes us to Piazza Sant'Agostino, where there is the homonymous church belonging to the Augustinian monks. On the opposite side, there is a small church, that of San Pietro, dating back to the 12th century, one of the oldest in San Gimignano.
Not far away, you reach the Porta di San Matteo which opens onto the second circle of walls. The construction dates back to the 12th century. This was one of the seven entrances to the city.
San Gimignano, the Cathedral
One of the most interesting monuments of San Gimignano is the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Assunta. You enter the city cathedral by climbing a wide staircase. The building stands out above all for the bare façade, the result of the thirteenth-century arrangement, while the interior has three naves divided by columns.
To the left of the Cathedral stands the Palazzo Comunale, a building dating back to 1288, formerly the seat of the government of San Gimignano, and was enlarged in 1323. Subsequently, the building became the municipal seat. The rooms house the Civic Museum with important works of art from the Florentine and Sienese schools from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century.
Another building with an entrance from the square is the Palazzo dei Ghibellini Salvucci, (bitter enemies of the Ardinghelli Guelphs who, on the other hand, had their houses in the adjacent square), a building famous for its two towers, also known as “Twin Towers”. This family, one of the most powerful in the city, had two massive and imposing towers built to show the population their strength. Initially, they rose towards the sky up to exceed the 51-meter height of the Rognosa Tower, another city landmark of the time. To prevent the buildings from expanding upward, a law of 1255 expressly forbade exceeding that height, so the towers were lowered. The two twin towers have a square base and very few openings. The entrance portals are very narrow.
San Gimignano, the twin towers
On the opposite side of the square stands the old Palazzo del Podestà with the tower called Rognosa which, until the end of the 14th century, was used as a prison.
Piazza delle Erbe is the place that once hosted the fruit and vegetable market (hence the name perhaps). Triangular in shape, it closes by climbing towards the fortress. The aforementioned "twin" towers of the Salvucci family rise from the square. The left side of the square is bordered by the bell tower and the side of the Collegiate.
San Gimignano, piazza della Csiterna, the well
Piazza della Cisterna is instead the ancient seat of shops and taverns and owes its name to the octagonal-shaped travertine well located in the center. On a stone of the well is the coat of arms of the Podestà Guccio dei Malavolti.
Also on this square, there are several palaces such as the Tortoli palace, with its elegant fourteenth-century mullioned windows, the truncated tower called dei Pucci, the Ridolfi palace and the towers and houses of the Becci and Cugnanesi; the Pellari palace and, with its two towers, the Ardinghelli palace.
On the other side of the square is Palazzo Lupi with the legendary Devil's tower. In fact, it is said that the owner, returning from a trip, saw it higher than when it left and that he attributed the work of raising it to the devil.
San Gimignano, the entrance to the Rocca di Montestaffoli
The Rocca di Montestaffoli stands in the place formerly occupied by the castle of the Lombard Astolfo, which later became a Dominican convent. Today from the only turret of the Rocca still accessible you can enjoy an extraordinary view of the towers of the city center and a magnificent 360 ° panorama of the Valdelsa.
At the end of Via del Castello you arrive at the large building of San Domenico. It is a former castle of the Bishop of Volterra passed to the Dominican friars, who transformed it into a convent. Left by the monks towards the end of the 18th century, it was first transformed into a female prison and then a male prison.
The last stop on the city tour of San Gimignano is the area of ancient public sources. We are in the place where the inhabitants obtained water and washed their clothes. The Porta delle Fonti, dating back to the fourteenth century, was part of the second wall, while the fresco "Madonna with Child and Saints Michael and John the Baptist" by an unknown Sienese of the sixteenth century, which had been painted here, was transferred under the loggia of the Town Hall.
Very interesting is also the promenade that runs along the perimeter of the second wall that delimits the historic center of San Gimignano. Along the way you can admire panoramic views of the Valdelsa.
San Gimignano, view over the Val d'Elsa
The city of towers is known for its typical saffron, which has been the flagship of local tradition since the Middle Ages. This spice, as well as the olive oil that is produced in the area, has obtained the DOP certification. This is also a land of cured meats, including wild boar ones. As for the wines, the local nectar is Vernaccia San Gimignano Dop , which is produced exclusively in the countryside around the town in the province of Siena.
The visit to San Gimignano can be faced in all simplicity. It is a tour to discover the main monuments. With the reflex and finding the right angles, you can take memorable photos. And in any case, if you are satisfied, the smartphone is enough.
In terms of prices, it is not always a cheap destination. If you choose to have lunch or dinner at the restaurant, the prices go up according to the solution chosen. This place can be admired in complete tranquility with the family. Hotels and restaurants may also accept your pet, but it is always good to ask first.
The best months to visit this place are spring and autumn.
You can reach San Gimignano by car following the A1 Milan-Rome motorway, Firenze Impruneta exit, then the Firenze-Siena highway to Poggibonsi Nord (signs for San Gimignano). On the train. The nearest station is Poggibonsi San Gimignano on the Florence-Empoli and Empoli-Siena lines, then bus to San Gimignano. The closest airports are those of Pisa and Florence